Thursday, May 17, 2018

[Review] Early Man

The latest from Aardman Animations hearkens back with Early Man, a royal rumble that kicks and head-butts its way into a new dawn.

Set during prehistoric times where cavemen (and cavewomen) roam the earth alongside creatures like wooly mammoths, we follow Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) as his valley is overtaken by a nasty fellow named Lord Booth (Tom Hiddleston), who's the ruler of the medieval Bronze City (quite the culture shock for Dug). From there, the two enemies decide to settle the land dispute by, yes -- a football match (soccer - for us Americans).

Unsurprisingly, the most striking element here is the stop-motion animation. It's so carefully crafted, so utterly charming with its meticulous claymation movements and impressively earthy color palettes. The film presents a unique juxtaposition of settings as the wacky proceedings launch into a clash between The Stone Age people and The Bronze Age people. And while not all the narrative pieces are completely fresh, it's still a fun and warm-hearted little tale of underdogs going up against the almighty (the story is actually quite reminiscent of the Bollywood classic Lagaan).

The film's brand of humor won't make you laugh your fur vest off (although the giant duck fart had me rolling), but it's clever and bone-dry enough to appreciate, especially as it taps into the wide-eyed naivety of the cavemen (and cavewomen). Everything is new to them. And let's just say they aren't the smartest folks on the planet. But no one's judging -- I mean, they haven't been around very long. Every character (even if we don't remember all their names) here is given a distinct personality and set of quirks. The most delightful surprise is a lady named Goona (Maisie Williams, "Game of Thrones"). She's a resident of the Bronze City who develops a soft spot for Dug and his tribe. She's also the best soccer (er--football) player around, despite not being allowed to try out for her hometown's team. One might wonder if the film could've had a little more oomph if the story were told from Goona's perspective instead.

Still, while Early Man won't be etched into history as one of Aardman's best, it's hard not to root for.

( 8/10 )

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